As I’ve said before, I love some good football. Bowl season is really exciting because there is always a game on TV, and I can kick back and relax after the holidays and just watch football all day. With that in mind, I wanted to do something in honor of bowl season. A post on my bowl picks would be lengthy, and besides, everyone already does that. And I don’t know enough about half of the teams playing in bowls to make informed decisions. So instead, I went for something a little more entertaining: mascots.
Everyone loves mascots. They’re just fun to watch, and are often happy to pose for a picture; I’ve had at least five pictures taken with the Hokie Bird over my two and a half years at VT. Some mascots, though, aren’t so warm and fuzzy, and some are just odd. We all know those, the ones that make us go, “…do what?”
So in the spirit of bowl season, please enjoy my Good, Bad, and Ugly (and two bonus categories) of college mascots!
Most of the teams listed are teams that have played in bowls this year, but there are some non-bowl teams out there that I couldn’t pass up for one reason or another.
Also, the only school/mascot on this list I have any affiliation to whatsoever is VT/Hokie Bird. All other commentary is based on cursory research, observation and speculation.
Hokie Bird — Obviously I wasn’t going to leave him out! “Hokie” is a completely made-up name that has nothing to do with a turkey. In 1896, a contest was held to create a new spirit cheer, and the winning cheer was what is now known as “Old Hokie”: Hoki, Hoki, Hoki Hy, Tech, Tech, VPI! The e was later added to the end, and the Hokie Bird replaced the Gobbler as the mascot in the 1970s. I see Hokie Bird around campus making friends and socializing with visiting families. During spring family weekend last year, Hokie Bird plopped onto the ground in one of the quads and let entire families take photos with him. I also love watching him dance along with the cheerleaders and Hi-Techs at football and basketball games. In Cassell, he’ll venture into the stands and say hi to students and fans. You can’t say the Hokie Bird doesn’t know how to have fun. And the Hokie Bird is totally specific to VT, so you’ll never see anything like him anywhere else. He’s all ours!
Oregon Duck — Puddles the Oregon Duck has to be the one of the cutest college mascots I’ve ever seen (after the Hokie Bird, of course). In the Oregon football games I’ve watched, Puddles is always active along the sidelines, shaking his tail feathers and cheering on his team. You just can’t help but smile when you see essentially Donald Duck in green and gold having fun at a massive football game. I also love how Oregon plays off the “duck” look on their uniforms. Ever noticed the duck feathers on their shoulders and sometimes on their helmets? Too cute! And for the record, I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever called a football uniform “cute.”
Brutus the Buckeye of OSU — Brutus appears here on my list just because he’s so unusual and unique (sorry, Michigan fans). “Buckeye” is a nickname for a hickory nut and residents of the state of Ohio. A buckeye is also a delicious chocolate-peanut butter treat, similar to a Reese’s Cup. But we’re talking college mascots, not candy. Brutus is essentially a hickory nut with arms, legs, and a torso. You can’t blame Ohio State…sorry, The Ohio State University…for not being lame and unoriginal.
WuShock of Wichita State — A hay bale with a face? If memory serves me correctly, VT has played these guys in the NIT before. Their team nickname is the Shockers, so I can see how they wouldn’t really be able to accurately represent that in character form. But I have to admit, I’m not really feeling the whole hay bale with an angry face. Any Shockers out there want to fill me in?
Syracuse’s Otto the Orange — Yes sir, that is an anthropomorphic orange. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s one of those odd ones that I mentioned above. Again, with a team nickname like “The Orange,” there aren’t a lot of options. But I’d take the orange over an elephant or tree (see below for latter) for a mascot for a singular nickname. At least Syracuse is good at a few sports (i.e., men’s basketball) so their mascot isn’t totally laughable.
Akron University’s Zippy — The history behind this is actually pretty neat (check it out here). I get the deal with the “Zips” and the name “Zippy.” But a kangaroo? Really? There’s got to be another animal that is “fast and agile” but more menacing than a kangaroo. All I’d be able to think about would be Kanga and Roo from Winnie the Pooh.
Stanford Tree — Stanford’s actual nickname is the Cardinal, but their mascot is a…tree? I don’t get it, either, and I’m totally open to any Stanford fan/alum/student to enlighten me about it. But seriously, you can’t tell me the tree isn’t at least one of the creepiest mascots you’ll ever see. At least make it a redwood.
Miami’s Sebastian the Ibis — I understand that you can’t really have a legit hurricane in a suit walking around at football games, but there’s got to be something better than this. The cartoon version is even weirder than the thing in the suit. It doesn’t even look that much like an ibis…it looks more like a duck, and a ticked off duck, at that. I get chills every time I see Sebastian on the sidelines. If I’m going to see a duck on the sidelines, I want it to be Puddles.
Western Kentucky Big Red — Take a look at this thing and tell me it does not look like a Pokemon. I’m thinking Muk or Ditto. (Side note: wow, I’m old.) Courtesy of my mother, he looks like the mascot for some kind of indoor playground for preschool kids. Try to disagree with one of us.
JUST PLAIN FUNNY
Elon Fighting Christians — Until 2000, the mascot of Elon University in Elon, N.C., was the Fighting Christians; I guess they thought they needed to fit in with the nearby Demon Deacons of Wake Forest and the Duke Blue Devils. I found this name horribly ironic. Christians aren’t supposed to fight! Fortunately, they changed their name to the Elon Phoenix, which is a reference to the fire of 1923 that destroyed most of the campus, and how the school “rose from the ashes” like the phoenix bird. “Phoenix” sounds much better than “Fighting Christians” on so many levels.
Oregon State Beavers — This goes back to the fur trade days, when beaver hats were still made for trappers and hunters. There isn’t much that’s intimidating about a furry mammal with a flat tail and buck teeth, unless he’s building a dam in my backyard. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about Benny the Beaver flooding my yard, so my point stands.
TCU Horned Frogs — I thought mascots were supposed to be (somewhat) attractive? I mean, the TCU frog mascot isn’t quite as funny-looking as the real amphibian, but not by a long shot. And it just sounds funny to yell out, “Go Horned Frogs!” Or even just “Go Frogs!” What if you’re a student at TCU and you’re deathly afraid of frogs? I would think that’d be a pretty big concern. But in your defense, I’d be scared of that, too.
And last but not least…
Tigers — LSU, Clemson, Auburn, Memphis, Missouri, Princeton…am I missing any? Sure, Tigers are intimidating and cool and all, and I’m not opposed to big cats. But there’s got to be a way to be more creative with it. I’d take the White Tigers. That sounds cool, right?
Wildcats — My high school’s mascot was the Wildcat. And our school colors were red and white. The High School Musical jokes were endless. But I digress. Kentucky, Kansas State, Villanova, Arizona, Davidson, Northwestern…they all have one thing in common, and it isn’t Zac Efron or Vanessa Hudgens. Rawr.
Bulldogs — Georgia, Butler, UNC-Asheville, Mississippi State to name a few. Variations of the bulldog include James Madison’s Duke Dog and Georgetown’s Hoya. If I hadn’t moved from Atlanta before high school, I would have been a Hoya. That would have been much better than a High School Musical-esque Wildcat.
There you have it, y’all. Happy Bowl Season!